Sermon Pentecost 3 June 10, 2018

Genesis 3:8-15           Psalm 130                 

2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1                     Mark 3:20-35

May these words and our thoughts be acceptable to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It never ceases to amaze me that our Scriptures written donkey’s years ago are relevant today.  In our readings there are several cautionary words for us.  In the Church we face a very serious and divisive issue in Same Sex Marriage.  There are plenty of Scriptures quotable on both sides of the debate, and because we depend heavily on Scripture there is not much likelihood of compromise being made on the basis of Scripture, and there is a very real possibility that the Anglican Communion will be riven with strife, finger-pointing and division.

Listen to today’s texts again.  In Genesis  “Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat ?”  Apply that as you will, but I ask, have we followed the Word of God the way God wants ?  Emphatically  “No”  but can we be wisely guided in future ?  Can we strain out the gnat of truth from the mountains of false opinion that exist ?

The Psalmist echoes most of us in his longing to understand the Truth in God’s Word.  Oh, if only it were laid out clearly for us.  We are a slow lot and sometimes need things in black and white,  “do this, don’t do that”.  If only everything were so clearly stated what an happy world that would lead to  (for some !)  but at least there would be certainty.  Trouble is, given human nature, we would still transgress, as a species we have broken every God-given law.

And Jesus talks about division too, the very circumstance that we find ourselves facing  “if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand”.  We understand that as calling us to do everything to persuade, accommodate and not divide.

Paul gives us hope when he says  “So we do not lose heart.  Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day”.  Put those two opposites together and there is hope.  The Church is being renewed day-by-day even as it struggles.  Anglicans are proud of their ability to find the  ‘via media’,  the  ‘middle way’.  The important thing about the middle way is that it is tolerant and accepting that others have different views.  It doesn’t mean that we have to capitulate our own principles, but it does mean that we don’t impose our views and standards on others.  If we can live with others in our secular life, surely we can live with others in our Church life, where we are called to show care and kindness to those we would not otherwise have the time of day for.  Think about the Good Samaritan who crossed religious and cultural lines and reached out to a person he ordinarily disliked and who ordinarily disliked him.

And think also of one of Jesus’ Last Words from the Cross  “Father, forgive them;  for they do not know what they are doing”  (Luke 23:34).  I’m pretty sure that Jesus didn’t mean that to apply to just those few soldiers who executed Him and stole His clothes.  No that was a Word for all time and for us, as we do many things that displease God.

Plenty of Scriptures are thrown about on the subject of Same Sex Marriage, but let’s also consider a couple of the universal Scriptures and apply them.  First  “Do not judge, and you will not be judged;  do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive, and you will be forgiven”  (Luke 6:37).  Yes forgiveness is key for us who tend to judge too rigorously;  the forgiveness referred to is both of and by us.  And as Jesus also said  “I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world”  (John 12:47).  So again Jesus calls us to look at the big picture.  Salvation is the most important thing we could ever hope for.  What is the end game then ?  To hold others back ?  Or is it to run the race for ourselves and win our own Crown of Glory ?  (1 Peter 5:4).

Let us be more concerned about our own salvation, while we encourage and help others to follow our example, rather than insisting that things be done our way and no other.  I often wonder if Jesus said to the Pharisees  “Butt out !”  If He did I bet they deserved it and sometimes we do too.

In the spirit of this-too-shall-pass Paul writes  “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen;  for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal”.

Although the Church has split from time to time on momentous issues, Same Sex Marriage should not be one of them.  People have gone to their deaths defending their beliefs, some were heretics  (not that they deserved to die)  and some were true leaders in the Faith.  Is this an issue for which you would die ?  I doubt it.  Nor is it one that should cause us to part company from each other.  There are still some people who are uncomfortable with female clergy, which is a great pity, for all that women offer.  A woman priest gave me the encouragement I needed to take up the cloth, see what you might have missed without her !  Seriously, in the struggles, theological and social that we are grinding slowly through, and whatever is decided at General Synod next year, I ask for your tolerance, patience and understanding.  Give serious thought to your convictions and pray that we will not be divided, after all, as Jesus says, if we believe in Him, we are all brothers and sisters, we are family, and that’s important, it’s important that families stay together.  Amen.

 

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